no, but they could "smell" them.
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Perhaps if you could set them up in identical rooms with the same equipment. Other than that I think it would be pretty hard, even Soundlab admits the differences are minimal and primarily in the bottem octaves. I understand that the panels and the electronics are the same, the only difference being the frames. In theory it would sem to make a bigger difference because of the rigidity of the metal frames. Albert where are you on this one?
Bryceeboy, I went from the Soundlab A-1 to the Ultimate 1, and there was a big difference. However, in my case there were several upgrades on the Soundlab design in the interim, so my experience is inconclusive as to what did what. I agree that the two models being close is probably accurate. However, this would only be if the A-1 was ordered with the Ultimate upgrades, which include special wiring, posts, connectors, and toroidal transformers. Beyond that, the rigid nature of the steel frames should produce some performance gain, but probably not proportional to the difference in expense. The same question could be asked as to the differences in performance between the A-1 and the less expensive M-1. Each of these three Soundlab speakers, if equipped with the Ultimate power supply upgrade, are more alike than not. They share the same core, same diaphragm and radiating area. My excuse for buying the Ultimate 1, is that I love Soundlab, and having owned the others first, committed to their best model, knowing it suited me perfectly and that it represented my final purchase in a loudspeaker.
I sell Sound Labs, and have recently heard current-generation Millennium-1's (A-1 equivalents) and Ultimate-1's, with the same amplifier and source material, though in different rooms. There are differences. The Ultimates do seem to go a bit deeper in the bass, and but the main difference was in the soundstaging. The M-1's are quite decent in this department (especially in depth of image) but the ultra-rigid metal frame U-1's throw a very palpable no-room-boundaries kind of soundstage that I simply haven't heard before or since. So yes, there are real differences, which may or may not be worth the extra ten grand or so.
The difference is really n the lower octave. Having said that I will add that even the rigid metal frame is not enough to totally contain the energy of the speaker when playing lower bass information. As albert will most likely verify you can improve things still further by adding some ballast weight to the transformer boxes. I have about 80 lbs of lead shot resting on mine and have filled the frame tubes with sand. This has added a noticable increase in delicacy and defintion to the very low end as well as marginally improving the imaging overall.
90493, I too use lead ballasts on my Soundlabs. I have three 25 pound bags of #7 lead shot wrapped in cloth and black gaffers (cloth) tape on each speaker. I also had a machine shop turn some steel cylinder stock into precisely the same leg diameter as the Soundlab. Adding about 2 and a fourth inches to the rear legs, allowed me to remove the aluminum Mod Squad tiptoes, and replace them with Simply Physics Delrin and Stainless steel feet. The Simply Physics feet can be adjusted to within a few thousands of an inch, while maintaining contact with the speaker frame. They do not "unscrew" away from the base, leaving an air gap. This added rigidity, and the ability to use a laser pin and bubble level, allowed me to precisely align the Ultimates for perfect imaging in my environment. As with all speakers and systems, its the little stuff that is so much trouble, that adds up and pays off.
Yes, I called Brent at Soundlab and ask for the brand and model number of the heat gun that they use. Then I got the setting on the dial that they set the panels with, and marked that number with a Sanford Sharpie. Now if my speakers get cranky from the weather or excessive movement, I flash tighten them, using the same method the factory uses. The main problem with doing it after they are in the home is worrying about the grill cloth (spandex). It discolors and burns faster than the screen itself, if extreme care is not taken in the process.